Civil Service Strollers: Why Gary Jardine's high standards means he expects more even though they are punching above their weight

It is a measure of the high standards Gary Jardine sets as Civil Service Strollers manager that he is not satisfied with the season so far.

Monday, 17th January 2022, 7:00 am

The north Edinburgh side are still well placed inside the top six of the Lowland League, despite three games without a win, but Jardine is demanding more.

Strollers have a young squad, one of the lowest budgets in the increasingly professional league, and have been punching above their weight since Jardine took charge nearly four years ago.

But the early-season form Strollers enjoyed has tailed off over winter and Jardine is determined to put it right.

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When he zooms out he’s proud of what his squad have achieved but is not slow to remind them that they have a lot to learn.

“I’m not satisfied,” he said after his team surrendered an early lead to lose 3-1 at Berwick Rangers on Saturday.

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“Prior to Christmas we were happy with how things were going. But we have dropped points in games we felt we could have done better in. We’ve not done so great in the winter weather. We need to get back to the standard we showed in the first half of the season.

Civil Service Strollers forward Alieau Faye, who put his team in front, closes down Berwick midfielder Aidan Denholm, who is on loan from Hearts. Picture: Alan Bell/BRFC

“For a long period of time we spent most of the season in the top three. We dropped to sixth place and there are a couple of teams hot on our heels so we need to get back to basics and regroup.

“As a squad we have done fantastic. For a lot of them it is their first year in the senior game. There is loads of learning taking place. It is frustrating for me, because I have to take the rough with the smooth. But there are still a few home truths that need to be told.”

The towering figure of Alieau Faye, a pivotal man for Jardine all season, stabbed his team in front from a corner at Shielfield Park as Strollers took the game to Berwick early on.

Strollers boss Gary Jardine expects his team to be in the top six at least

But Sean Stewart headed in an equaliser before half time and when Lewis Barr broke free to trundle in a second for Berwick, Strollers could not respond on an increasingly heavy pitch.

Thomas Scobbie fired home the third after some wing wizardry from Alex Harris to seal Strollers’ fate.

There were positives to take ahead of next week’s derby with Spartans. Ross Young, captaining the side for the day in the absence of Mark McConnell, was excellent in the centre of midfield, giving on-loan Hearts man Aidan Denholm a difficult afternoon.

Wingers Robert Cole and Joao Balde, a former Rangers youth, have pace and trickery in attack. The three centre-backs were well organised and Strollers were neat and tidy in possession, but as the game wore on and the pitch cut up they began to flag.

“We gave the ball away far too often and in good areas for Berwick,” added Jardine. “Both teams found it hard going on a heavy pitch and Berwick found the quality that mattered. We started really well. We were on the front foot, got our goal early on and created one or two other openings.

“At half time we asked the players to get back to the standards they showed in the first 20 minutes. The game became bitty and scrappy.

“I felt the next goal was going to win it and that’s what happened.”

Berwick Rangers: McNeil, Nelson, Ferguson, Scobbie, Pyper, Barr, Taylor, Denholm, Baker, Baker (MacKenzie 87), Stewart, Harris (Heeps 87). Subs not used: Ward, Cook, Sinclair, Smith, Swinton.

Civil Service Strollers: Whyte, Irving, Valentine, Clapperton, Shaw, Duffy (Gibson 66), Young (Trialisy 83), Trialist, Faye, Balde, Cole (Makovora 71). Subs not used: Johnston, Dukuray, Murdoch.

Referee: Ryan Lee.

Attendance: 332

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